Ever since Bolivia, we’ve been anticipating our next high altitude adventure. Not another climb to the top of a 20,000′ peak (I’m OK with that being a ‘tried it once, never doing it again’ sort of thing), but a proper multi-night trek that gets us into a rhythm of eat, walk, eat, rest, repeat.
We flew into Leh, a small Himalayan outpost in northern India, near the borders with China and Pakistan. Rugged snow-capped peaks give way to bleak, muted brown mountains, which give way to a tangle of mud-brick homes and ubiquitous white guesthouses with brown trim. It took us a few days to get settled with the elevation, but it was easy to find our first trek: five days hiking through the Markha Valley. It’s well-trodden and required little planning, for both us and the agency, since we’d be sleeping in homestays. This meant we could leave on short notice, but ultimately it was more social than physical.
It was a fun group of nine, at times overflowing with Aussie testosterone (skipping rocks, throwing rocks at rocks, ‘toss up a rock and we’ll all try to hit your rock with our rocks’), but always high spirits and jokes; a solid group to get us over the high passes and through the awful lunches. Speaking of lunch, it was the low point of each day, as we were each handed a box of processed ‘food,’ as if to say, hey westerners, we’d like to give you a taste of your own medicine. We’d barter amongst ourselves, trying to trade trans-fat infused candy bars for golf ball-sized boiled potatoes (the only real food), but nobody wanted to part with them.
All in all, we came away with vivid images of swelling muddy rivers snaking through deep valleys, polychrome canyons, and patches of green and yellow fields. Oh, and some new card games; we finally got some use out of the deck we’ve been carrying around for 9 months.